The Petersburg borough assembly Monday passed a resolution asking for a hearing on the state’s remote road project on Kupreanof Island near Kake. The resolution also asks for no further spending on the 40 million dollar Kake Access Project until government agencies answer more questions.
Petersburg’s assembly has taken multiple votes on the state road project but has been mostly split over an official borough stance.
Meanwhile local residents this year gathered signatures seeking a public hearing and more detailed environmental review for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit the project needs to continue.
“We the people are asking to be involved, to be informed and to have a say in the expenditure of 40 million dollars of public money during a fiscal crisis in the middle of a pandemic,” said David Beebe in support of the resolution.
The Kake access project will extend forest roads on northern Kupreanof Island from Kake to a proposed boat ramp about 12 miles north of Petersburg. The state has already awarded a 15.5 million dollar contract to international construction company Kiewit for reconditioning existing forest roads on the island.
Ambre Burrell spoke in favor of the state work and thought the project would provide some jobs for locals.
“It’s just really disheartening to see how against growth Petersburg has become,” Burrell said. “This is a great avenue for recreation. This is a great way to promote jobs in our community. We had a really, really poor fishing year. I think there’s a lot of guys that would love to be make 60 plus dollars an hour working.”
The state has applied for a wetlands permit through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the proposed new road segments and boat ramp, all on national forest land. The resolution seeks a public hearing with the state Department of Transportation and Army Corps, community and tribal representatives and Sitka Republican Senator Bert Stedman. He secured the 40 million dollar state appropriation in 2012 for the road.
Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor asked for the vote and supported the resolution.
“I’ve been frustrated with this much money at stake, really not getting clear answers as to the scope and purpose of this project,” Stanton Gregor said. “And again we’re not talking about a $10,000 grant, we’re talking about 40 plus million dollars. That’s real money. It’s real transportation money in a time when our state budget is very lean.”
But the assembly remained pretty split on this resolution, like it has on past letters and resolutions.
Mayor Mark Jensen is a supporter of the road work. He thought the construction would bring jobs and money to Petersburg and the finished road could increase economic opportunities.
“I view this project from Kake to Twelvemile Creek as a start to get the road closer to Petersburg,” Jensen said. “I also see it as a similar transportation link the connection from Wrangell out on Mitkof Highway at Banana Point boat launch.”
The votes were there to pass the resolution however, with only Jensen, Bob Lynn and Taylor Norheim voting no.
A spokesperson for the Corps says that federal agency is still working on an environmental assessment for the new road segments and boat ramp and has not made a decision on issuing the permit.